Dec 19 , 2012
Palouse Wind Project
 
Avista can now count the renewable energy generated at Palouse Wind among the resources we use to meet our customers’ energy needs. Now in full commercial operations, the Palouse Wind project in Rosalia, Wash., is officially the largest renewable energy facility in Whitman County and is expected to contribute to the local economy for years to come.

On Tuesday, Dec. 18, Avista and First Wind announced successful completion of construction of the project. Read our news release.

The 105 megawatt (MW) project will be included in Avista’s diverse resource portfolio and will have the capacity to generate enough renewable wind energy to power the equivalent of approximately 30,000 of Avista’s customers’ homes. This is the first wind project built in our service territory.

The project features 58 state-of-the-art Vestas V100-1.8 MW turbines installed at the project site situated between the town of Oakesdale and State Route 195 on the hills surrounding Naff Ridge. During construction, the Palouse Wind project infused more than $25 million of direct spending into the regional economy and created hundreds of jobs.
Avista is purchasing the energy produced by the Palouse Wind project under a 30-year power purchase agreement and will take delivery of the power through a direct interconnect to our 230 kilovolt (kV) Benewah-to-Shawnee transmission line. 

Palouse Wind helps us achieve our goal of meeting customers’ energy needs reliably and responsibly, while continuing our legacy of renewable energy. It’s good for our customers and communities to have the project right in our backyard and helps us keep our customers’ rates at some of the lowest in the country.

In addition, now that Palouse Wind is fully operational, Whitman County will receive approximately $12 million over the next 20 years in property tax revenues, which can be used to lower tax rates, improve schools, maintain roads and enhance local services.
Published: 12/19/2012  2:13 PM | 1  Comment | 0  Links to this post

Dec 17 , 2012
$28,150 donated to food banks in Washington, Idaho, Montana and Oregon
 

Avista employees help distribute food at a mobile food bank last fall.
Avista employees help distribute food at a mobile food bank
last fall. .
For some residents of the Pacific Northwest, feeding their families can be one of the biggest challenges they face each month. Forty-seven food banks in Avista’s service territory will have a bit more money to stock their shelves in the months ahead as the result of grants issued by Avista Corp. and the Avista Foundation. A total of $28,150 has been donated to food banks in Washington, Idaho, Montana and Oregon by Avista Corp. and the Avista Foundation.
 
“Community food banks are providing vital safety-net services in the communities we serve. Through their buying power and relationships with food producers, the food banks are able to leverage donations like ours to bring several times their value to help stock the shelves for those in need,” said Scott Morris, chairman, president and CEO of Avista Corp. “Helping limited income families and seniors meet their nutritional needs is an important part of our emphasis on providing assistance to reduce poverty in the communities served by Avista Utilities.”

In addition, Avista employees donated $8,000 to the Second Harvest Food Bank during “Tom’s Turkey Drive,” a Thanksgiving event sponsored by KREM television. Avista Foundation matched that amount, for a total donation to Second Harvest of $16,000.

Funding for donations, other than employee gifts, comes from foundation funds and company profits. It is not included as a cost to customers in developing retail rates.
 
Published: 12/17/2012  2:35 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Dec 10 , 2012
Avista truck in Clarkston parade
 
Post by Dan Kolbet

Avista has long been a part of Clarkston’s annual Lighted Christmas Parade and this year was no different. An Avista line truck – used by our electric crews – appeared in the parade and was adorned with many, many light strands that certainly made for a festive feeling.

Several employees’ children or grandchildren volunteered to hand out candy along the route alongside the truck. Special thanks to the kids: Anna Duman, Eli Duman, Cam Knight and Sean Sharpes.

Happy holidays!
Published: 12/10/2012  11:19 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Nov 06 , 2012

Winner icon
Avista Utilities was recently honored with a special recognition award from the judges of the Green Washington Awards, sponsored by Seattle Business magazine. Avista was also named to the list of the 50 greenest companies in the state of Washington.

Making the special award, magazine executive editor Leslie Helm said, “Avista, which has been providing power to much of eastern Washington and northwest Idaho since 1889, prides itself on its history of clean power generation. And it takes sustainability seriously, ranking as the nation’s third lowest emitter of CO2 (in pounds per megawatt hour) amongst investor-owned utilities. It’s known for being a proponent of renewable energy ... and the company has long championed the use of wind power. Avista is also renowned for building the nation’s first biomass-fueled power generation plant.”

Accepting the award on behalf of Avista, President Dennis Vermillion said, “We are very pleased to be recognized in the Green Washington Awards and to be among the top sustainability performers in Washington. Our employees are some of the brightest and most talented of any company I know.

“For us, doing business responsibly means doing it in ways that have the least impact on the environment and the most positive impact on our customers and communities. This kind of shared value is the backbone of our company.”
 
Published: 11/6/2012  10:42 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Nov 01 , 2012
New, lower rates start today

If you’re an Avista natural gas customer in Washington, we’ve got good news for you as we head into the colder months of fall and winter. Beginning today and through the rest of the year, depending on your energy usage, you’ll see lower natural gas rates. That’s because last week, the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission approved our Sept. 13 request to reduce natural gas rates in Washington by an overall 4.4 percent.

Rates for our natural gas customers in Washington and Idaho have decreased twice this year because of lower wholesale prices. Overall, natural gas rates in Washington have dropped by about 11 percent in 2012.

Today’s decreases are mostly because of lower natural gas prices. You might remember we reduced natural gas rates for Washington customers in March by 6.4 percent. Like then, abundant supplies of natural gas and lower demand have continued to push wholesale natural gas prices downward. That’s good news. Why?  Because we pass those savings directly through to you through Purchased Gas Cost Adjustments, or PGAs, such as this one.

The combined costs of purchasing natural gas on the wholesale market and having it transported to our distribution system for delivery to you is about 55 percent of your natural gas bill – or 55 cents of every dollar you pay for natural gas.

With the new rates, if you’re a residential customer in Washington using an average of 68 therms per month, you’ll see a decrease of $2.58 starting today, for a revised monthly bill of $58.18. 

Natural gas work in Spokane Valley
If you’re a commercial customer, you can expect decreases of 5.1 percent for large general service schedule 111, 5.7 percent for extra large general service schedule 121 and 8.0 percent for interruptible sales service schedule 131.

What about rate increases?
Wondering how this decrease is related to news you’ve heard about upcoming rate increases? Recently, Avista announced a settlement with various parties in our general rate case in Washington. The settlement, if approved by the commission, would increase electric rates by 2.0%, and natural gas rates by 3.6% beginning Jan. 1, 2013.  This natural gas rate change in the settlement is related to owning and operating the natural gas system, and is separate from the cost of the natural gas itself.

Even if proposed rate increases are approved and take effect in January, your natural gas rates at the beginning of 2013 will still be well below where they were at the beginning of 2012.

The good news is our customers have been seeing the benefits of increased natural gas supply and lower prices for some time. In fact, Avista pays some of the lowest wholesale natural gas prices among our utility peers in the region. It means our customers continue to have some of the lowest natural gas rates in the country.

Did you know if you’re a Washington natural gas customer, your rates are at levels similar to those from 2003, and even less when you adjust for inflation? This is mostly because of the declining prices of natural gas on the wholesale market. In fact, when adjusted for inflation, natural gas rates in both Idaho and Washington have stayed fairly level over the past 50 years.

Read more about natural gas pricing in our thee-part Avista blog series that helps explain the three main drivers of your natural gas energy bill – wholesale gas costs, fixed transportation costs, and equipment and people.
 

 
 
Published: 11/1/2012  9:39 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Oct 22 , 2012

Settlement provides more certainty for you to manage your energy costs over the next two years

Post by Anna Scarlett

Today we announced a settlement agreement with several parties on the electric and natural gas general rate requests we filed back in April. The settlement, if approved by the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (WUTC), would mean a modest two-phase rate increase in electric and natural gas rates. The first would take effect Jan. 1, 2013 and the second on Jan. 1 of 2014.

Better yet, we’ve agreed not to request additional general rate increases that would take effect before Jan. 1 of 2015. This doesn’t mean we wouldn’t adjust rates based on wholesale natural gas costs before then (remember, that’s a separate part of your bill). For more information about how we adjust those costs, read our Natural Gas Pricing 101 series.

But what it does mean is that you’ll have more certainty in your energy rates for the next two years, so you can better plan to manage your energy costs. And your energy prices will still be among the lowest in the nation.

The bottom line

If the commission approves the settlement and you are an Avista electric customer, you would see two separate rate increases:

·      Beginning Jan. 1, 2013, if you use an average of 989 kilowatt hours a month, you would see an increase of $1.20 per month, which equates to about 4 cents a day, for a revised bill of $78.69.

·      Beginning Jan. 1, 2014, if you use an average of 989 kilowatt hours a month, you would see an additional increase of $1.60 per month, or about 5 cents a day, for a revised bill of $80.29.

Here’s how the changes, if approved, would affect you as a natural gas customer:

·      Beginning Jan. 1, 2013, the first 70 therms of your bill would actually cost a little less. This means an average monthly bill for 68 therms would decrease by about 38 cents to $60.37. For every therm you use over 70, you would see an increase of about 10 cents per month. So, if your usage is less than 70 therms a month, through energy efficiency efforts, for example, you will really see the benefit of this change.

·      Beginning Jan. 1, 2014, if you use an average of 68 therms a month, you would see an increase of 57 cents a month, or about 2 cents a day, for a revised monthly bill of $60.94.

The settlement and what’s next

You may be wondering what a rate case settlement agreement is and how it all works. When Avista files a request to increase rates, it goes through a process much like a legal proceeding. Parties representing various groups including residential, small-business, low-income, and natural gas industrial customers, take part and submit testimony and proposals on behalf of their groups.

The commission oversees this process, and is charged with setting rates that are fair, just, and reasonable for customers, while allowing Avista the opportunity to earn a fair return on the investment shareholders make so we can continue delivering safe, reliable energy. When we can reach an agreement like this one, it saves time and the cost of a fully litigated rate case. It is ultimately up to the commission to approve the request.

In addition to Avista, the parties to the proposed settlement are the Staff of the WUTC, Northwest Industrial Gas Users, Industrial Customers of Northwest Utilities and The Energy Project, a low-income customer advocacy group. The Public Counsel Section of the Washington Office of the Attorney General and the Northwest Energy Coalition did not join in the Settlement Agreement. The WUTC sets the schedule for next steps, which include hearing testimony from the parties. For more information, see the WUTC website.

Here are a couple of other resources about how energy rates are set that you might find helpful.

WUTC video: What’s Up (and Down) with Energy Rates?

Avista Rates and Pricing: What’s Driving the Cost of Energy?

Published: 10/22/2012  8:05 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Oct 09 , 2012
I-937 requires Avista to have 3 percent eligible renewable resources, renewable energy credits (RECs) or a combination of both in 2012
 
 
Avista’s been generating renewable energy for a long time – after all we were founded on hydropower more than a century ago. But starting in 2012 renewable energy has officially become a required part of our energy portfolio.

video
In addition to meeting our customers’ energy needs, Avista has to meet renewable portfolio standards detailed in Washington’s Energy Independence Act. Washington state voters approved the act with the passage of Initiative-937 in 2006. It requires us to use eligible renewable resources, renewable energy credits (RECs) or a combination of both to meet the following annual targets: 3 percent of energy used to meet customer demand by Jan. 1, 2012, 9 percent by Jan. 1, 2016 and 15 percent by Jan. 1, 2020.

We just got our first stamp of approval from the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission for submitting our renewable portfolio standard report, which details how we will meet our 2012 targets. This was no small feat, and we’ve done it in a way that allows us to continue to meet our goal of providing reliable energy to our customers at a reasonable cost, even as we add new renewable power to our mix.

We will meet the majority of our 2012 requirements simply by doing what we had already planned to do – upgrading our hydroelectric dams, primarily those on the Clark Fork River. We upgraded the generating units at Cabinet Gorge Dam from 2001 to 2007, replacing the original turbines, which were installed in the 1950s. And at Noxon Rapids Dam, we just finished upgrading all four original generating units with new turbines. We did this work to extend the life and capacity of our dams. And with the modern turbines, we can generate more energy using the same amount of water. Better yet, since the upgrades were done after 1999, the additional energy qualified as an eligible renewable resource to meet our state mandates.
 
Palouse Wind
Looking forward
The next big deadline will be 2016, and while it’s still a few years away, we’ve been planning for it for some time. Over the past several years, we followed the market and looked for opportunities to incorporate additional cost-effective sources of renewable power. Lower costs of developing wind power facilities and ongoing tax incentives set to expire at the end of 2012 led us to a request for proposals in early 2011, and later that year we signed a power purchase agreement with the Palouse Wind Project, which has the added benefit of being located in our service territory. 

Palouse Wind has added value in the form of the renewable energy credits it provides. From time to time, we sell surplus RECs that result from the generation of power from renewable resources that exceed our need to meet state requirements.  Sales of excess credits help offset and lower power costs for customers.

A more recent accomplishment gives us even more flexibility in meeting our renewable energy mandates. As one of the first biomass plants of its kind in the country, Kettle Falls has been generating renewable, dependable energy for more than 25 years. We’ve been working since 2008 to get the energy generated at Kettle Falls recognized in Washington state as renewable, and in March of 2012, Washington Governor Christine Gregoire signed SB 5575 into law. The bill qualifies biomass energy projects built before 1999 as eligible renewable resources. As a result of the bill’s passage, the energy generated at Avista’s Kettle Falls biomass plant will qualify to meet our renewable requirements beginning in 2016. This will save our customers millions of dollars that we might otherwise have to spend to acquire or build more renewable energy to meet our state mandates.  
Published: 10/9/2012  4:32 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Sep 17 , 2012
So, there's a gas decrease request and a request for an increase and a . . . well, it's confusing at times. Let us explain.
 
 
WA gas rate breakdown.
Question for the day: Have you ever thought about what makes up your natural gas bill?

Other than looking at how much our monthly bill is and maybe how much energy we used the last month, most of us don’t give it a thought.

As an Avista customer, every dollar you pay for natural gas service on average is made up of three different components – the wholesale cost of the natural gas used (41 cents), the cost for transporting that gas from the producer to Avista’s distribution system (13 cents), and the cost for the people, equipment and services needed to deliver that gas to your home (46 cents).

Last Thursday, we asked the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) to allow Avista to decrease natural gas rates for the second time this year by an additional overall 4.4 percent because wholesale natural gas prices continue to decline. You can read more about the request in the news release.

If our request is approved by the UTC, the new lower rates would be effective Nov. 1, making Washington residential natural gas rates over 11 percent lower than at the beginning of this year. This requested decrease is in the wholesale cost of gas (41 cents) and fixed transportation (13 cents) portions of your bill.

If you’re a Washington customer, you may have seen an insert in your August energy bill that provides information on a different Avista rate request called a general rate case.  That request was made last April to increase both electric and natural gas rates. So, why are we asking to decrease and increase natural gas rates at the same time?

The natural gas portion of the general rate case is for the delivery portion (46 cents) of your bill – the people, equipment and services needed to safely and reliably deliver natural gas to you. The request to increase natural gas rates by an overall 5.9 percent is to recover increasing costs to operate and maintain the natural gas system. The UTC has up to 11 months from when the request was made to review and issue a decision.

Rates are complex and can be confusing, so we have a short video that gives more information on the general rate case process. Information on Avista’s general rate case, including upcoming public hearings, is available in the Notice of Request for Rate Increase brochure that was in your August Avista bill. If you missed the insert click this link to check it out.
Published: 9/17/2012  4:02 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Sep 13 , 2012
If approved, new rates would go down 4.4 percent – or 11 percent when combined with March decrease
 
Natural Gas Pricing 101
Natural Gas Pricing 101, Part 1
Natural Gas Pricing 101, Part 2
Natural Gas Pricing 101, Part 3
Post by Debbie Simock

Good news if you’re a natural gas customer in Washington – your rates could go down for the second time this year thanks to lower wholesale natural gas prices.

We filed a request today asking to reduce natural gas rates in Washington by an overall 4.4 percent. That’s in addition to a 6.4 decrease that was effective March 1 of this year. If the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission approves our latest request, beginning Nov. 1 residential rates would be over 11 percent lower than at the beginning of this year. You can read more about our request and the drivers in today’s news release.

Want to know more?
Check out our special thee-part Avista blog series that helps explain the sometimes confusing nature of natural gas pricing and find out about the three main drivers of your natural gas energy bill – wholesale gas costs, fixed transportation costs, and equipment and people.
Published: 9/13/2012  2:38 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Aug 28 , 2012
pix
 

Avista was truly “Human Powered” last week thanks to more than 120 employees who generously volunteered their time for the Salvation Army Backpack for Kids giveaway or helped us organize, set up and staff the Avista Energy Fair 2012 at the event. In the lead-up to the big day, employees donated more than $1,700, which was matched by a $500 contribution from Avista. Three bins of school supplies were also donated by our generous co-workers in Spokane.

The event began at 8 a.m. with a line that stretched around a city block. When the last backpack was given out at 6:30 p.m., more than 1,500 families had received a total of 3,614 backpacks, many of which were proudly worn by their new owners. For the 137 kids who were placed on a waiting list when the backpacks ran out, their wait for school supplies won’t last long. Avista has donated an additional $2,000 to the Salvation Army to purchase the packs and the learning tools that go inside.

The day and what it meant to our employees is best summed up in their own words:

“What an important service to the families and children who so desperately need support – and the joy that it brought the children to have a new, beautiful backpack of their very own!  We were so grateful to be able to share the opportunity for our employees to volunteer and see firsthand the important work that you (Salvation Army) do in our community for the same families who are also our customers.”
-Anne Marie Axworthy, Director of Consumer Affairs

“Having only been employed with Avista for about two months, it hasn’t taken long to find out that Avista truly lives out its commitment to give back to the communities it serves. This commitment was displayed early in the process through communication at both the corporate and departmental levels encouraging employees to participate, and by providing the work schedule flexibility to allow me to be able to volunteer.  However, what really cemented Avista’s commitment for me, was when I did a double take when I realized Scott Morris was driving the shuttle van I was riding to the event. It was amazing to me the number of parents that expressed their gratitude for our participation in helping to get their children something as simple as a backpack for school.”  
-Bob Brandkamp, Risk Management Analyst

“It’s eye-opening anytime I do community service with low income people. I registered people as they came in, and I had to ask what their monthly income was. The answers were astounding, how little people live on in our community. These are people with kids my kids’ ages. I feel fortunate to be in the position I'm in. It’s great that Avista partners with organizations like the Salvation Army.
-Lamont Miles, Design Integration Manager

“It was very nice for Avista to put the opportunity out there for us to volunteer. It’s hard for my wife and I to know where to volunteer and this gave us a way to help in the community.”
-Brian Hosig, Residential Meterman

“I saw a lot of people with pride and dignity; people who appreciated what was given to them. They were surprised we had an Avista goody bag. I'm glad I did it. It meant a lot to me.”
-Roxanne Williams, Energy Efficiency Program Rep.

“I volunteered with my son, Patrick. I thought it was good for him to see the need out there. He's pretty sheltered with dinner at home every night and the school supplies we purchase for him. It was good for him to see the other side of the coin -- how much need there is.  It was startling to see what some people are surviving on every month with several children. It’s Important to go to school that first day and start off on the right foot. How devastating it would be for kids to go to school without school supplies.”
-Debbie Deubel, Construction Standards Technician

And finally from Capt. Kyle Smith, Spokane Corps Officer, The Salvation Army Spokane Regional Services:

“Having such a wonderful group of volunteers from Avista was extremely helpful.  Your employees’ big smiles and willingness to jump in wherever needed made the difference. One of my favorite words is "synergy."  Yesterday I think we experienced synergy in action.  We all achieved far more working together than we could have done apart. Thanks again for being good neighbors.”
 
 
Published: 8/28/2012  11:16 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

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